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April 23, 2006

Bob Estes


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Bob Estes, thank you for joining us for a couple minutes here at the Shell Houston Open. Good week for you. Stuart Appleby did his best to run away with the tournament, but you had a good week. Maybe some comments about your week, definitely a good one for you.

BOB ESTES: It was a good week. 12 was the best finish I had this year prior to finishing second today. I knew I was playing better, even though I was missing cuts in Florida. I knew my game was getting better and better and finally things started to come together this week as opposed to last week and prior to that.

Anyway, I didn't play a whole lot earlier in the year, either. I turned 40 back in February, so I took a three week break in addition to some of the weeks I normally skip. I had only played seven tournaments coming into this week when the other guys had played 10 or 11 or 12. Anyway, I'm still kind of getting in the flow. It's certainly different when you're in contention or somewhat in contention when you haven't done it in a while, then usually going off first like I did Saturday last week or something like that. But anyway, playing better, and yeah, it feels good.

Q. What's your early impression of your 40s?

BOB ESTES: Well, I didn't feel any different from my 30s so far. I'm trying to get younger as I get older. I train hard and on a good vitamin supplement program, so I'm trying to stay lean and fit and extend my career. Actually that's part of my plan and has been for quite a long time. Hopefully I'm trying to make up for lost time. I'm just now figuring out some things and getting out of some bad habits that I've had my entire professional career, and I'm still not there yet, but I'm gaining on it.

But I'm trying to buy myself some time. I want to still be able to be very competitive out here and have a chance to win tournaments and hopefully majors into my 50s. That's kind of the plan, so I'm still trying to get healthier and not let anything slip if I can help it.

Q. What have been the hardest bad habits to get rid of?

BOB ESTES: Usually it's those cookies in the locker room. Almost everywhere we go they have cookies or brownies, and man, it's hard to pass up a cookie tray after a round on the course. I have a sweet tooth, but try to stick to a little bit of dark chocolate every day and not all the other stuff.

Q. You talked about your confidence level yesterday. You shot 66 Saturday. What does it say when you not only shoot 66 Saturday but have a good week.

BOB ESTES: Yeah, I mean, today means more than yesterday really. Shooting 69 today, which obviously still could have been better, means more than shooting 66 on Saturday when you're not really in contention yet. I was just getting myself into contention. It's all about Sunday out here, and I hit a lot of quality shots that I maybe wasn't hitting enough of in the past, and I didn't make every putt I needed to make but I think I'm figuring a few things out with the putting, as well.

Hopefully I'm getting better. I think I am, my teacher knows I am, so I'll keep working on it and hopefully the confidence level will continue to rise and I'll just play better and better golf.

Q. It's awfully tough to come back I think from four back. Is that something you think in your mind, I know this is pretty difficult to do but I'm just going to try and make some birdies and finish high, or are you of the mindset "I can win this"?

BOB ESTES: I definitely felt like I could win it, but of course a lot of that had to do with what Stuart was going to do. He could easily play a solid round and shoot even par because it's not an easy golf course. With the wind and the pins in the corners and the wind sometimes changing directions, and there's obviously some places you can get in trouble off the tee, like on No. 8 when I hit it right in the water. I knew I still had a chance but I couldn't make any mistakes, and when I bogeyed 8 and 9, that didn't necessarily put an end to my chances, but when I bogeyed No. 14 after a really good shot when I thought I was going to have a short birdie putt, that was kind of the end of it for me probably. I didn't give up by any means. I was still trying to make birdies. But all I could do was par the last four.

Q. Were you ever looking at the leaderboard? Were you seeing 20 up there for a while and 19 and just going, "man"? Did it seem like a big hill to try and be climbing?

BOB ESTES: I never saw 20. Did he get it to 20? I would have given up for sure then (laughter).

I thought he was only 19. I might have bogeyed in, just given up (laughter).

No, obviously he was just playing well. Like I was saying earlier, the course is playing to wind, but 2nd is better than 3rd. We're playing for so much. Obviously the money, but there's so much more than that with trying to move up the Money List and get World Ranking points and make the Ryder Cup team and Presidents Cup team and qualify for the invitationals and World Golf Championship events. We're always playing for something, so 2nd is always better than 3rd, 3rd is better than 4th. Tiger is the only one that might say otherwise. For me I'm still trying to get into some of those tournaments that Tiger is winning.

Yeah, 2nd, of course I wanted to win, but like I said, I'd rather finish 2nd than 3rd.

Q. Does it mean a little bit more doing it close to home, too?

BOB ESTES: Oh, for sure. Hopefully before my career is over, I might have an opportunity to win the Texas Slam. I know there's not too much talk about that, but I think every player that grew up in the State of Texas would love to win all four events here in Texas. I've only got one so far and it sure would have been nice to make this No. 2. So yeah, there's the Grand Slam, the Texas Slam, so I've got that one to try to shoot for, as well. Even someone like Tom Kite, the best I know, didn't win any of the Texas events. So that tells you how tough it is when he grew up in the State of Texas and playing these kinds of courses and in that kind of wind.

Q. How close do you feel like you are to being the player you were when you were winning a couple times a season and Top 30 in the world, that type of thing, Top 20 type player?

BOB ESTES: As far as how my game feels, my game feels better than it did then. But only recently.

See, back then, we're going to get into all this ten finger baseball grip stuff again, but those last three tournaments I won, I won with the ten finger grip. I just hit the ball better that way at that point in my career than I could with an overlapped grip, so I played that way for quite a while, but I was limited, also, in what I could do. When I hooked up with Craig Coy back in I guess it was August of 2001, we were always kind of talking about the ten finger grip, the overlapped grip, and he pretty much let me do my own thing as far as playing with that ten finger grip.

Having won three times that way and only once with an overlapped grip, it kind of made it tough to let go of it. As we have continued to chip away at my new golf swing, if that's what you want to call it I kind of lost my train of thought there, but anyway, knowing that I won three times with the ten finger grip, it was kind of tough to get away from it and go back to the overlapped grip. But now it's easier for me to work the ball both directions if I have to. I've played with smaller grips with the overlapped grip so I have better touch on the shorter shots and the less full shots and things like that. I was pretty one dimensional I guess you could say when I won those three tournaments, and now I've maybe got a little bit more feel in my game and a little bit more variety as far as the shots that I can hit.

Q. You talk about winning majors into your 50s. Is that what I heard you say earlier? You talked about winning and maybe winning majors into your 50s? Did I hear that right?

BOB ESTES: Well, that's obviously getting I don't mean to get too far ahead of myself. I'm trying to win tournaments, of course, but I've also had a few chances to win major championships, as well. If my physical golf game is in good enough order to handle the challenge, I've always felt like mentally I was strong enough to get it done. But my physical golf game has just not been good enough to win more than I have or to hold up under some of the most extreme pressure.

I guess it was the I think it was the U.S. Open that Furyk won at Olympia Fields when I was still playing with the ten finger grip, and I knew I was going to have to get back to learning how to swing the club properly with the overlapped grip. So it's been a long, slow process, but you can tell from a lot of the shots that I hit out there, a lot of the iron shots in particular, some of the tee shots, I mean, I hit them just as good as they can be hit and exactly where I wanted to. Not all of them, but a lot of them felt just as good as they could be.

As far as what you're saying about the majors, you know, like I said, I'm just trying to buy myself more time. I'll be back in the weight room tomorrow with my trainer when I get back to Austin after tonight. I train hard and try to eat right, get enough rest and things like that because you think about somebody like Hale Irwin. If Hale Irwin would have stayed on this Tour until he was 55 or 56, Hale might have won another eight or ten times out here and won another major or two if he kept playing on the regular Tour because I think there were a couple majors he played in his 50s where he played really well and the other guys, as well, like Tom Kite or Tom Watson, some of those guys. Instead of going straight to the Senior Tour when they turned 50 that's not really my plan. I might play a few events or a few of the majors, but I'm hoping to still be playing out here, because like I said before, I felt like I've lost a lot of time up to now because of not having things where they needed to be to give me an opportunity to play my best golf.

Q. What did you think of this place as a tournament venue with the move over here?

BOB ESTES: We've got plenty of space, that's for sure. It's just so spread out. It would be nice if it wasn't so spread out. I mean, the rounds were really long, and that's the down side of it. They did shuttle us some, but it's just so spread out. There's so much distance between so many of the greens and tees. The golf course is plenty hard, plenty good. It's very challenging, but if it would not have rained on Friday morning, the greens probably would have been firmer yesterday and today and the scores probably wouldn't have been as good as what you saw.

It's definitely hard enough to challenge all of us. They put those pins in the corners and the wind is blowing a little bit and they've got the greens firm and fast. It's a plenty hard enough test.

Q. How will it be as a week before The Masters tune up, which is what it becomes next year?

BOB ESTES: Well, I really don't know for sure what you still have all the overseeded fairways and greens, I guess. So it just depends. Maybe you won't have the heat, maybe they won't have to water as much. I know that they were really watering the fairways a lot, more so than we would like to see. I was out playing a practice round, I think, on Tuesday evening, and the fairways were already so lush and green and they're watering them. I don't know if they are going to die. I don't know enough about ryegrass and how hot it has to be for it to die, but hopefully the golf course at that time of the year, they'll be able to let the fairways play a little firmer. Maybe they won't have to put as much water on the fairways because I'd like to see the fairways firmer just like the greens were firm, and then it would be even better prior to a major championship.

Q. Do you think changing the date will help or hurt the tournament overall?

BOB ESTES: Well, overall it's probably going to help because you're going to get more of the foreign players. When they come over early they almost always play a week before and then maybe a week after. Let's see, Vijay plays every week so you probably won't lose Vijay.

I know we're talking mostly about the players at the top of the list, but some of the players you'll definitely have a stronger field and you'll get a few more of the top players the week before The Masters, but a lot of guys like to take the week off before a major, and that's typically what I do, too. I usually don't play the week before because one thing you have to remember, as well first of all, the golf course might not match up as well to the tournament that you're going to play or the major you're going to play, but also, sometimes our tournaments, especially in the springtime, could easily get extended into Monday or Tuesday. Not many guys want to be stuck somewhere and not be able to stay in their normal major championship preparation routine, so most guys want to be able to fly in on Saturday or Sunday or Monday or whatever they do. So that's kind of the chance you take, also, when you play the week before a major.

Overall you'll definitely have a better field.

Q. Will you play?

BOB ESTES: Probably. I don't know if I would be able to not play now. Too many people were saying "we'll see you next year," so I was kind of like, "well, I guess I probably will be back." I'm not going to say for sure one way or another, but there's obviously a good chance that I would come back and play after playing so well this year.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Bob, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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